26th Oct 2016

Brussels expresses concern at Germany's court judgement

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso has expressed concern at a judgement by Germany's constitutional court on the Lisbon Treaty, fearing it could undermine the "European project."

The possible implications of the 147-page ruling is slowly becoming clear after the initial relief expressed in Brussels that the EU's new treaty was given the green light.

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Germany's judges on 30 June said the Lisbon document is compatible with the country's constitution but said parliament should have the final say if the EU wanted to extend the competences beyond what is contained in the treaty.

They also criticised the European Parliament - set to gain greater co-legislative powers under the treaty – as not being representative of the will of the European people but rather a body representing member states.

In addition, the judges ruled that Germany's highest court should have final say on interpretation of EU law allowing it to overturn judgements by the bloc's highest court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Mr Barroso on Wednesday (15 July) said the judgement raises "very important and sensitive issues in terms of the competence of the European Union and other competences, namely on the understanding of the principle of subsidiarity."

Subsidiarity is the principle that decisions should be taken at the most local level possible. The court effectively ruled that it would uphold the principle to make sure decisions taken at EU level could not have better been taken at nation level.

Mr Barroso said the judgement was "extremely important" for the way member states "understand respect for community law."

ECJ case law has established the supremacy of community law over national law and the court has the last say on interpretation of EU law. To date, its judgements have led to a series of integrative steps in the bloc.

This is because the court rules often in areas where member states have competences. It does this by basing its judgements on the principle of upholding the integrity of the internal market, an elastic category.

Mr Barroso, who will express a formal opinion on the judgement at a later point, said the issues it raises have "to be discussed politically."

He said it is important to clear up "what is now the understanding of the principles of subsidiarity and how can we make that democratic principle, which is very important, compatible with our common European project."

Debate in Germany

The ruling has also raised strong debate in Germany. Some politicians, particularly from the CSU, sister party to the governing Christian Democratic Union, now want Germany's parliament to have the right to approve Berlin's position before it negotiates EU decisions in Brussels.

But this has been strongly opposed by others. Elmar Brok, a German centre-right MEP, on Tuesday said Germany "would not be able to negotiate" under such circumstances.

"As majority voting is applied in most cases, this would mean that Germany could only say yes or no. That would mean loss of influence for Germany and we should not allow that."

The MEP, who sat on the convention that drew up the Lisbon Treaty's predecessor, the EU constitution, told Deutschlandfunk that if all parliaments in the member states were to take this position "then we can shut up shop here" as there would be no more negotiation and no more possibility for agreement.

"That means we must not go beyond certain lines here," said the deputy.

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